What does one do with an energetic seven-year-old who comes to visit? Well, whether you are a grandparent or great-grandparent or an aunt or uncle, you plan what you think would be fun for a seven-year-old to do, and then you store up as much energy as possible.
My great-grandson Garrett Moore, often called “G,” came for 10 days, which had his mom and dad, Heather Williams Moore and Jason Moore worried that he would become homesick, first time away from them and his three-year-old sister, Sloane. He spent five days each with his grandfather, Troy Williams and his grandmother, Erin Edmonson. At each place he had other relatives joining in for the “tour d’ la South Louisiana” or Loozeanna, the way Garrett spells it. This story was written from an interview with Garrett and the quotes are his exact words.
His time in Gretna included a visit to the Louisiana Fire Museum, a part of the Gretna Historic Society Museum Complex with great-grandmother, MiMi, Helen Williams and his grandfather, Papa, aka Troy Williams. When asked what he learned there, he said, “MiMi said “historic” means old and important. That’s what the old steam pumper is. It’s the only one left in the world. There was a cool safety net that catches people when they have to jump from a building. There was a basket to put people in to bring them to safety.”
He saw firemen hats and firefighting equipment and we weren’t sure how much he was paying attention as Judy LeBlanc gave him a tour of the historic fire station, but he spoke about some of those things in our interview. He talked about the old switchboard and communication equipment. His faves, the toy fire trucks and Dalmatians in the museum displays.
From the old firehouse, the next stop was nine blocks up Lafayette Street to the main Gretna fire station where Operator/Fireman Mike Couch took Garrett on a tour of a modern fire station. G was very impressed indeed. He kept saying “Wow” and “Awesome” as he walked between the huge fire engines. As Fireman Mike, who has children of his own, explained about the different firetrucks and the many firefighting accessories, we realized that Garrett had been paying attention at the old fire museum as he recognized some of the similar equipment at both places. He was very impressed with the fireman hat that weighted him down and we were surprised to learn that the seven-year-old knew what the “Jaws of Life” were.
Thanks to the Gretna Fire Chief, Mike Labruzza, Fireman Mike presented Garrett with three Challenge Coins, dubloon type items that are used to recognize outstanding work among the firefighters. G was over-the-moon when he received the coins. He also got to see the new fire station site next door at 1200 Lafayette where they were driving 75’ pilings. OMG, there was a pile driver, another big piece of moving equipment for him to enjoy.
One day Papa had arranged for them to watch some construction. Garrett was unable to get to the equipment, but he sat in Papa’s jeep and saw a bulldozer, dump truck, steam roller and a large crane lift grates over the river.
The next adventures were with his “Nanny,” Aunt Meredith Williams, Uncle Tate Williams and grandmother, Erin Edmonson.
The visit to the Insta Gator Ranch and Hatchery was a big adventure. Garrett said, “They told me about alligators and how there are only a few left because of people and because sometimes the momma’s crack the eggs and sometimes people take the eggs. They said the Insta Gator replenish the alligators.” Garrett’s version of what goes on at the hatchery may vary from the real story, but that’s a direct quote.
“There were baby alligators they had caught and put in a little, tiny pool about 1’ deep. I picked up the alligator with one hand where the tail starts on its body and with my other hand grabbed it by the neck, very gently. I picked it up and didn’t get bit because the mouth was taped shut,” he said.
He also saw big alligators. “You couldn’t put your hand over the wall where the bigger alligators might swing their tails over the wall. We were allowed to throw marshmallows for the alligators to eat. But, the alligator pool house smelled really bad!”
Another trip on his vacay was to an animal farm where he said, “We saw many animals, llamas, giraffes, gazelle’s, deer and longhorn cows. We rode on a tractor pulling a trolley through the wildlife preserve. There were little brown pellets like dog food that I fed the goats.”
A visit to the Children’s Museum was another treat where, “I ate beignets, so good. There were toys, a microscope and a water tank that was like the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. There were cargo ships like in the river by my Papa’s house (in Old Gretna). There was a room with musical instruments, a piano, drums and an upright bass. I built a tower with blocks and there was a jumbo bubble machine that was cool. You have to pull it down really, really slow or the bubble would pop. I made a really big one, over my head. It popped!”
The “piece de resistance” for Garrett was a visit to see the helicopter where Grandmother Erin Edmonson is a staff RN on the neonatal/pediatric flight team at Ochsner. “The helicopter was amazing. I sat on the seat with a seatbelt on and I stood in the cockpit! “Roux,” (Garrett’s name for Erin) picks up people if they are injured or sick and brings them to the hospital. She wears a green backpack with the tools to treat the patients. There is also a kind of hammock that stretches across the helicopter to bring the patient in and out of the helicopter. So, Roux, essentially (catch the word from a seven-year-old) nurses the patient and then passes them on to Nanny (Nanny is Meredith Williams, a pediatric intensive care nurse. (Again, this is G’s version of things.)
If Garrett was to visit Loozeanna, he had to go to the bayou! It just so happens that great-grandfather, Neal Vaught has a camp on Bayou Gauche and also a bay boat. “We had a boat ride and saw the heads of two alligators that Papa said were about four feet long. It rained, so no fishing. I got to drive the boat all by myself. There is a switchie thing to stop the propeller,”
G said. Only Garrett’s hands were on the steering wheel, but Grandpa Neal was very close indeed. With G driving, they did end up in the reeds.
Those 10 days were wonderful for Garrett, but brutally tiring for the older relatives. Whenever Garrett was done for the day, he could just go to the other great-grandparent’s house and jump in their pool to cool off. It was a good swim and a visit with MeMaw and PePaw, Susan and Dave Edmonson.
Garrett learned a lot about Gretna. When asked what a levee was, he said, “Levees keep the water out of the streets.” He was disappointed because he was told that kids here get to ride down the levee on cardboard boxes, but it rained so much lately that it was never dry enough for him to do so.
When he arrived here, Garrett told Papa that he had to eat Snowballs on his vacation. He said that his mom, (Heather Williams) who was raised here, told him that Snowballs were awesome and were never to be called Sno-cones! He wanted to try every color and flavor possible. So, in between all the amazing activities, he was taken for a Snowball just about every day.
He was determined to find the best snowball flavor of all. To make a fair choice and to his delight, he tried “Dreamsicle, Birthday Cake, Pink Lady, Polar Punch, Chocolate, Watermelon, Wedding Cake, Blackberry and Spearmint.” Then, on the last day here, he said, “Dreamsicle is mom’s favorite and was my favorite until I just ate a King Cake Cream Snowball that was amazing. That’s my new favorite.”
He couldn’t decide if beignets were better than snowballs, so he said he has to come back on another vacation here to make a choice between the two treats that he doesn’t have in San Diego.
The night before he returned home, he sadly said, “Ten days was not enough. I don’t want to go home. I want to stay longer. I like it here more than San Diego, but it sure rains a lot!”